By: Deepan Dutta
It takes strength and sinew to go far in the mining business. Robert Kendrick epitomized that grit. Kendrick, a lifelong Leadville local and pioneering leader at Climax Molybdenum mine for decades, died July 28 in Leadville. While his impact was most felt in Leadville and Lake County, his legacy also looms large in Summit County, where he and his family lived for nearly 20 years from the ’70s to the ’90s.
Bob was born Aug. 12, 1930, in Leadville to Alcia Harlan Kendrick and Frank E. Kendrick Jr. Both sides of Bob’s family were from pioneering stock, with his grandfather and grand-uncles having made the frontier journey over Mosquito Pass into Leadville in 1879.
His father, Frank Kendrick Jr., was a prominent politician in the region, having served as house district representative for Lake and Chafee counties and having a big part to play in the placement and construction of the Eisenhower Tunnel.
Bob began and ended his life in Leadville, where he graduated from high school in 1948. He initially attended Colorado A&M, now Colorado State University, to be a forester but later decided mining was his passion and enrolled in Colorado School of Mines.
Bob graduated from there as a mining engineer in 1954, the same year he married Marian Caster, a woman he shared a life with for 65 years until his last breath. 1954 also was the first year he worked at Climax as a laborer in the depths of the mine.
From there, he worked his way up the ranks, becoming a superintendent at several other mines before joining the management of Amax and returning to Climax in the ’70s. At the time, he managed the building of an open-pit mine at Climax and oversaw the mine during its highest production years.
After years of leadership in the regional mining industry, Bob ended his career at Amax as vice president of Western operations, which involved management of the Climax and Henderson mines. He went on to become CEO of Monarch Resources, a gold mining company operating in the Guayana Region of Venezuela.
While his mining career made up the foundation of his legacy in Chaffee, Lake and Summit counties, it was certainly not the entirety of his life’s work. Bob set up and ran the original environmental group for Amax and was a champion of introducing better environmental practices to the mining industry. He worked to improve the local fish habitat and water quality, being instrumental in building the area’s first water treatment plant to help establish spawning beds for trout and then transferring native cutthroat trout from the Snake River and introducing them to Tenmile Creek.
“He was very aware of the need for environmental stewardship,” said Mike Kendrick, one of five children raised by Bob and Marian.
Bob was also a stalwart civic leader, having been an original member of the Lake County Planning Commission, working to bring television to Leadville, serving on Gov. Richard Lamm’s labor board, working for the U. S. Agency for International Development in the ’90s to help former central economies transition to market economies, and was a founding trustee of the National Mining Hall of Fame in Leadville.
In his personal life, Bob was an avid traveler and adventurer, having a love for fly-fishing and backpacking. He was a great skier, having competed in his youth, and was on the inaugural ski patrol team at Vail, along with being a ski instructor. He burro raced, scuba dived, ran, water skied and built his own speedboat with Marian.
Those are just some of the things Bob did, with too many more accomplishments and ventures to mention. He leaves a legacy in the town of Leadville, surrounding Western Slope communities and the mining industry.